Web legibility report: 86% of sites still have barriers

Websites are consistently failing to consider the issue of legibility, that’s the message coming from a report out this week on website accessibility.

Instigated by marketing communications group Ethical Media, the Disability 50 Accessibility Report examined 50 disability organisations and found some troubling statistics. Even among organisations that have a focus on disability, it would seem that the visual logistics of Web design are being ignored.

Ethical Media’s report was completed last month. The findings reveal that 60 per cent of the UK’s leading disability websites consistently fail to comply with fundamental basic accessibility checks.

The report is scathing about the poor lead taken by disability organisations, which should be leading by example, says Keith Patton, head of digital communications at Ethical Media and a former intranet designer at the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

In order to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines disability organisations need to satisfy a range of checks. There is an onus on organisations, state the WCAG rules, to ensure that the design of websites does not hinder one or more of the respective disability organisations.

But according to the Disability 50 Accessibility Report, there is gross non-compliance. A giant 92 per cent of sites proved ‘somewhat difficult’ in testing, in terms of their ease of access by one or more disability groups (a charity representing people with a particular disability).

Furthermore, 86 per cent of the group sites monitored failed to reach a level of design compliance that was judged to have ‘removed significant barriers to accessing Web documents’, while 58 per cent of disability organisations’ sites made it ‘impossible’ for one disability group to access Web content.

‘The majority of sites failing to comply with basic guidelines was a bit of a surprise to us, but if disability organisations are prepared to take people and organisations to court for failing to take an inclusive approach to disability, then we think they should be practising what they preach,’ explains Patton.

‘We used an automated tool to test the sites, as well as doing manual checking,’ he continues. ‘We ran checks against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines designed by Tim Berners-Lee, when he first invented the Internet. These guidelines are about inclusiveness and are checkpoints for accessibility, which is what we have used as base guidelines.’

‘The four main categories of disability are visual, hearing, physical [motor difficulties] and cognitive [learning difficulties],’ says Patton. ‘But for the Web it’s chiefly the visual category that you can test for objectively – the sites we tested did not tend to use audio, and the physical and cognitive disabilities can only be tested qualitatively,’ he adds.


• 84% of organisations for disabled groups fail to comply consistently with industry standard for Web pages.

• 58% of disability organisations’ sites were impossible to access by one or more disabled group.

• 86% of disability organisations’ sites were deemed ‘difficult’ to access by one or more disability group.

• 92% of sites were judged ‘somewhat difficult’ to access by one or more groups of disabled people.

Top sites for legibility

Ability Net www.abilitynet.org.uk

Action for Blind People www.afbp.org

British Council for Disabled People www.bodp.org.uk

Disability Rights Commission www.drc-gb.org

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